Saturday, March 13, 2010

Polaris, by Jack McDevitt

Book 5 of My Old Man's Challenge

I prefer science fiction movies to science fiction novels, but I kind of liked this one. Polaris came out a few years ago. This story has plenty of futuristic spaceships, technology, and faraway worlds, but the plot is essentially a mystery.

The Polaris is a space yacht carrying well known scientists and social activists to witness an aging star get pulverized by a neutron star. Other ships are in the system observing, taking readings and doing the actual scientific work. When the star has become a nebula, the ships prepare to jump back to an outstation. All the ships call in announcing their departure, but Polaris never makes it to the station. A ship is sent to find the Polaris and find out what the problem is. The Polaris is found drifting off course, the passengers missing, and the artificial intelligence onboard shut down with no record of what happened.

Sixty years later, Alex, an antiquities dealer, and his pilot, Chase, acquire some of the artifacts that were found on the Polaris. A bombing of a Polaris museum exhibit starts an odd chain of events. The customers to whom Alex sold the Polaris artifacts are approached by either a man or a woman, who are not who they say they are. Alex's home is broken into, but only some of the minor collectibles are stolen and they are later found, apparently abandoned. Alex becomes obsessively curious about who these people are and why they seem to be connected to Polaris. His efforts to find them becomes dangerous. His vehicles are sabotaged, his ship nearly maroons him and Chase out in the middle of nowhere, and the police are unable to do anything to protect them.

Eventually, Alex and Chase have to solve the original mystery of how the Polaris passengers disappeared to answer why someone seems to want Alex and Chase dead.

This was a decent book. What little violence there was wouldn't gross anyone out. No sex scenes, very minimal swearing, and it took a while for me to figure out what might be going on. I did figure it out before the end of the book, but the solution wasn't obvious at first. I don't think most teen girls would care for it, even though the story is told through the eyes of Chase, a female starpilot. Teen boys may not like it because there may not be enough action for them. If you are a mystery reader who doesn't mind a sci-fi setting, this may be all right for you.

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